Adobe apps help bring Photoshop to the streets

I’ve been using Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 software over the past few weeks, and what I’ve noticed most is that it’s given me the tools to create richer mobile experiences. Indeed, Adobe’s Web design application Dreamweaver has included incredible tools for creating mobile websites, and its publishing application InDesign has included eBook and digital layout tools that help create EPUB docs across multiple platforms. But what is also intriguing is that Adobe is including mobile devices into the actual creation of content.

If you have Photoshop, and an iPad, which seems to be becoming an increasingly common accessory for Web designers, you can use three new Adobe iPad apps that extend Photoshop’s functionality beyond the desktop. Nav, Eazel, and Color Lava help you control and send images to Photoshop via Wi-Fi.

Adobe Nav lets you use your iPad as a custom toolbar for easily accessing the Photoshop tools you use most. While Nav may not appeal to hardcore Photoshop users who have keyboard shortcuts hardwired into their muscle memory, casual may find it a useful interface that makes their favourite tools easier to access.

Adobe Eazel enables you to paint by gliding using your fingertips over your iPad’s screen. I have to admit that my finger painting skills peaked somewhere between kindergarten and grade one, and I found Eazel to take the most time to get used to among all the new Adobe apps, but there are great online walkthroughs that show how to access menus using all five fingers.

With its excellent integration with Photoshop, I can see this appealing to many people who find the interface more intuitive than the mouse. One of the nice touches with Eazel is that the brushstrokes are still “wet” for a few seconds after you paint them, so colours will bleed until they “dry”. I actually found this very difficult to get used to, but I’m sure it would be intuitive for people who are used to actual painting.

If you can’t get used to Eazel’s wet brushstrokes, I’d recommend using Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro for an on-the-go drawing app, which contains a bevy of settings for brushes including brush type, size, and pressure sensitivity.

Among Adobe’s new apps, I’m most excited about Adobe Color Lava, which lets you mix colors using your fingertips to create custom swatches and five-swatch themes. You can think of it as the digital equivalent of an artist’s palette.

The dimension of the tablet that I find most intriguing is that it enables greater interaction with the real world because of its portability, wealth of applications, and the fact that it’s always within reach. This means that you can use an app like Lava wherever inspiration strikes. Lava lets you import your colors from the real world into Photoshop CS5 when you’re connected or via email.

Just as a writer would be wise to keep a notebook at all times to jot down a note or an idea, a designer may want to record a colour. While it’s tempting to, say, just bring along a camera to record colours, it’s not exactly the same thing.

There are technical limitations to reproducing exact colours using a digital camera. The quality of the light in your photos affects the colour reproduction; differences in exposure time can affect how bright or dark your colours are; camera settings such as “vibrant” or “soft” can affect the colours recorded; and light settings such as “tungsten” and “fluorescent” can affect the colours in your photos.

Lava lets you record colours as you see them, and, furthermore, it lets you make changes to the colours, adding a shade of another colour, or changing the brightness at will.

To test out Lava, I went around Toronto to create a custom swatch theme inspired by this city.

The colours I found included the green of a Steam Whistle delivery truck, the weathered blue of the Blue Jays’ logo at the Rogers Centre, the orange of Dupont subway station, the red of the CBC building on Front Street, and the off-white of the McLaughlin Planetarium at dusk.

Adobe’s new apps help make Photoshop a more tactile experience, but I can also envision many designers finding that these tools help their creative process. The three apps from Adobe just scratch the surface of what can be done using the Photoshop Touch SDK, which is available to developers, who now have the power to create iPad apps that interact with Photoshop. I encourage designers to use apps to bring more excitement to their work, and unleash more of their creativity onto the Web.

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